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Excessive Brake Wear

Blog Date - 15 February 2016

I wear out brake pads. I wear them out far quicker than Sharon does. Why? Well I think there's 2 reasons for this. I may be making up excuses here rather than genuine reasons. Never the less here is my reasoning (or excuses).

A pair of very worn out, almost to the metal, brake padsI think I've had all these pads can offer really.

1. Excessive use.  

I started my 2 wheeled career when I were but a mere whippersnapper as most folks do, riding bicycles. Bicycles lack an engine therefore lack any engine braking. As such I used my brakes. As I started riding before such things as CBT and had only a bare minimum of training for my motorcycle test I was never really shown how to ride properly. So I continued to use the brakes to slow down as opposed to engine braking. 

Since those heady days I have undertaken considerable training, particularly on my way to becoming a fully qualified motorcycle instructor. I know how I should predict what is going on ahead and slow down accordingly if required. I understand about using the gears to control my speed. I understand the benefits of engine braking for both motorcycle stability and having the necessary power if it suddenly is needed. There are many advantages to engine braking - and yet I use my brakes far more than I should. Do as I say, not as I do I'm afraid.

I'm a lazy rider too. Having been a commuter, despatch rider, instructor, tourist and everyday biker I've habitually taken the easy option of just a bad of front brake rather than the effort of hooking down a gear only to go back up. While I take great pride in trying to be safe and keep to the speed limits I rarely put the same pride in my simple machine control. I only have myself to blame for all this and this means Sharon's probably a better rider than I am. Dagnammit.

2. Riding conditions.

While Sharon is a tough 'owd biker chick who's not afraid of the rain I still doubt she spends the same percentage of her riding time in dire weather as I do. My long suffering machines have to endure grinds to work and back, social outings and general use in all conditions except deep snow. All this causes mayhem with brakes as these conditions lift dirt from the roads and onto the pads. This gritty paste wears out pads in no time at all - ask any filthy mountain biker how long their pads last on a dirty muddy trail.

Other thoughts.

I have considered maintenance as a potential cause. Seized callipers and pistons will see off a set of pads in no time at all. No matter what people think of my dirt encrusted bikes I do look after them mechanically. As such I regularly check to ensure the brakes are not binding so that eliminates that thought. 

There is one other possibility...Sharon hardly uses the front brake at all and primary uses the rear? Hmmmmmmmmmm.................

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Reader's Comments

Sharon said :-
I am much better at employing my front brake these days since training for my full bike licence. (My excessive use of the back brake did not go unnoticed :-D.) I do use engine braking and changing down through the gears when approaching traffic lights etc that is true so maybe that does save my brake pads.
One thing I have noticed is that most riders, yourself included Ren, keep their speed up when approaching bends. Brakes are then applied to reduce the speed just before the bend. I however slow down before the bend, more often than not using engine braking, easing off the throttle changing to a lower gear and if needed only slight use of brakes. I have had people comment riding behind me that I don't slow down for corners, I do I just do it gradually and I do not hone into them and then brake hard. The down side to this is I will always be slower in the bends because I am at a slower speed for longer than other riders. I may not actually be any slower in the actual bend but I am in the approach.
One thing you have to bear in mind with engine braking is like I just said people behind you may not know you are slowing down. They should know because if they are paying attention they would see that they are getting closer to you but if you feel someone is getting too close a little blip on the brake to show your brake light may be necessary.
We are however all individuals and we ride are own unique ways. Dangerous bad habits aside sometimes I think it is best to go with what feels the most natural to us. Even if it means changing the brake pads more often.
15/02/2016 20:49:33 UTC
Monk said :-
Just a small thought, a thoughtette really. I've just completed a Bikesafe day with the Metropolitan Police and within that days course, which as you probably know consists of a police motorcyclist observing and subsequently commenting on the way you ride, I was gently persauded, by the very nice police man, to take bends differently than I had been doing previously. It's not about speed as such but in terms of where to slow and where not to slow, looking ahead into the next stretch of road, staying as smooth into the corner as possible, ie, no front brake, and back on the gas early, early acceleration basically, for optimal exit speed and no late braking half way into the corner, no whacking on of throttle, and think about your exit speed. Coppers... don't you just love 'um!!! I'd recommend a Bikesafe day to anyone!

Happy cornering Sharon!


16/02/2016 01:23:25 UTC
David Barwick said :-
Ren,

Have you considered the weight of rider factor also,
we know that Sharon is a little lighter than your good self,
this, together with differing personal braking habits, and also brake pad compounds,
a combination of all these factors would account for the difference you have experienced in brake (pad) wear?
Really impressed with Sharons reply to your above winge, she seems very aware of how to ride safely and efficiently, we all can be lazy and have bad riding habits, and could often still learn from younger less experienced riders.

David (KTM DUKE 200)
16/02/2016 18:50:18 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
WINGE! I'll have you know this was a full on grump David. Hehe, yeah Sharon knows her stuff and seems more capable than most in applying it too. Yip, I got me some bad habits over that years.

I guess weight plays its part too, my bike is heavier and I am heavier so there's more to slow down. While it is a factor I would estimate it's not the biggest factor.

Sharon and Monk, yes preplanning and looking ahead make for safer riders. Essentially although not entirely possible the perfect rider would barely ever require brakes. I however carry the remnants of wanting to be a fast rider, braking late and hard. I accept I'll never be a fast rider so it maybe time to stop these bad practices. Oh god...I think I'm getting old.
16/02/2016 22:21:31 UTC
Daf said :-
It's not necessarily that you're braking harder or later because of trying to carry speed - it might be that you work in the city? I'm a country lad, but the few times I've gone into cities, especially Manchester, I've felt like I'm always covering the brakes, switching direction quickly and stopping abruptly - a real learning curve from my usual roads! City riding kills brake pads... They're disposable, grarboxes and clutches aren't, and anticipating hazards in the city leaves you much less reaction time!
17/02/2016 13:10:51 UTC
Monk said :-
Thanks to all for their very helpful comments, it's always great to read anothers perspective, particuarly on cornering as it's currently my major interest having recently passed my test..although I was obviously doing corners before I passed, I'm now in the process of trying to improve on everything I've learned!

Ren, slow down mate...you're not as old as me...yet!!!:-)
17/02/2016 13:24:13 UTC
Monk said :-
Daf... I like the idea of a Grar box...or even a Grrrrr box!! :-)
17/02/2016 13:26:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You are right Daf, and I'd not taken that into account. I do a fair chunk of commuting while Sharon's riding is mostly for pleasure in the outback. Good call, I feel much more upbeat about my skills now thank you.

Grrrrr box...sounds exciting!

Monk - as has been said even the experienced riders have a lot to learn. Perhaps that's what keeps it interesting.
17/02/2016 16:39:03 UTC
Monk said :-
Ren- I think the thing about biking is, and this is fairly obvious, well to me, that knowledge grows exponentially, as time goes on. I've always been one for learning and getting into courses but all the academic stuff I've done throughout my life isn't a patch on learning about motorcycling. Having been out with you and learned quite a bit about straight lining roundabouts, I'm certain you'll recall that one, and leaving big gaps on my left when turning left, neither of which I do any longer you'll be pleased to hear,I also got a kick out of going out and being observed by the police and conversely, or shold that be perversely?,following the police biker and watching how his riding was so smooth and fluid, in that everything he did seemed to flow seamlessly into the next thing, if that makes any sense, I tell you what, they handle their BMW's like they're riding BMX's!!. Anyway loads to learn. Doing an IAM course over the next six months or so which will be great. And all this from a dream about a black bike!!! Life's great- isn't it!!

Happy safe biking!


17/02/2016 23:53:57 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
There is much to learn Monk, but find your own way too. Everything is an opinion and everything is open to interpretation. In my opinion it is better to follow the contour of the roundabout but there are many that will disagree. There are things I covered during some advanced training that I disagreed with. Find what works best for you.

That all said, I think you'll have a great time on the IAM course and pick up lots of useful knowledge and experience. Them police riders can sure ride, which made it all the more funny when one poor chap dropped his parking outside a cafe once. They are but mere mortals too and he was happy to take a ribbing for it.
18/02/2016 15:20:03 UTC
Monk said :-
Thanks mate... as philosophical as ever...which is why I read your blog...inspirational.
19/02/2016 00:18:44 UTC
Bob said :-
You've answered your own question in the title of the piece. You wear brake pads out more than SWMBO because you use your brakes more and harder - simples.
Contrary to what might be expected, I find that I use the brakes more on smaller bikes, just because the larger engine gives more engine braking.
I think in general riding I fall somewhere between you and Sharon in my braking habits; I employ engine braking as much as possible and top up with the brakes when required.
However when "going for it" obviously I'm heavier on the brakes as I carry more speed further into the set-up of the corner. I tend to follow the MotoGP lads (hahaha) and scrub speed late, turn in sharp and hammer out across the apex.
22/02/2016 13:26:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I reckon it's a combination of all of the above Bob. Even with years of experience I have much to learn and as Monk suggested that's part of the pleasure of motorcycling. My size, commuting and poor weather all contribute too. Obviously when I'm going for it I'm coming in harder and braking LATER than the MotoGP boys simply because I'm braver and more skilled than they are. If only I could afford a proper bike I'd show them boys what fast really is.

PS what does SWMBO stand for?
22/02/2016 16:39:32 UTC
Bob said :-
Yes, those MOTOGP boys are fairies...
"She Wot Must Be Obeyed"
25/02/2016 09:15:03 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Them MotoGP boys are fairies, but not as bad as them there footballing types.

She wot must be obeyed - aha, yes of course. I still haven't worked out why we must obey them though?
25/02/2016 17:07:54 UTC
vic oliver said :-
Just ask her, she will tell you why.
15/03/2016 09:48:13 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I already know Vic. I still have the bruises and the limp.
15/03/2016 18:09:34 UTC
Pegmonkey said :-
If you'd just admit you've been practicing (sorry, practising) stoppies, we could get to the root of the problem. Actually, I think your hypothesis about grit, grime and moisture are to blame. Actually, caliper brakes that are used hard and kept moisture free last the longest. The materials used are meant to work optimally when toasty. They degrade most when exposed to the corrosive action of oxidants.
17/03/2016 13:17:02 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I don't know about corrosive oxidants, I'll have to take your word on that.

As for the stoppies - of course, you've found me out. I am in fact practising to be the world's premier useless stunt rider. I'm doing very well, after 4 years I still have not managed even a minor wheelie. The stoppies however are something of a disappointment, I accidentally lifted the rear wheel 0.0001mm when I realised I'd forgotten my lunch on the way to work the other day. Whoops.
17/03/2016 17:29:33 UTC
 

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